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7 Of The Best Players To Ever Play For Blackburn Rovers

Podcast Blog Post 20

7: Bob Crompton

Bob Crompton is perhaps the greatest figure in 134 years of Blackburn Rovers history. Such is his legend that even 68 years after his death, Crompton is still considered one of the greatest players, managers and clubman of all time.

Why? Because he did it not for money or fame, but for the love of his club.

The beginnings of Bob Crompton were simple enough. Born into a Lancashire family on the 26th September 1879, there was little to suggest he would become one of the immortals of the game. Crompton however, rose quickly through the ranks and in 1896 (aged only 17) he made the move from Blackburn Trinity to First Division Blackburn Rovers. On the 10th of April the following year, Crompton made a successful first team debut at Centre Forward. After three games he was moved to Left Back and finally, to Right Back. It was here Crompton would solidify his reputation and build a dynasty at Rovers 

At the age of 21, Crompton's football and leadership quality saw him become Rovers Captain. He did not shrink from his new responsibilities, continuing his form and ensuring Blackburn steadily rose in the First Division. As a player, Crompton was both physically and mentally strong. His positioning was second to none and his solid ground game was complimented by his aerial supremacy. But Crompton did not let his formidable size and strength overrule his gamesmanship and he became well respected as one of the true gentleman of the game. 

While his meteoric rise at Rovers continued, Bob Crompton was recognised by his country. On the 3rd March 1902, Crompton made his debut for England at Right Back, soon becoming the first professional player to ever Captain them. Crompton held this position until the outbreak of the First World War, captaining 22 matches and earning a total of 41 caps.

6: Simon Garner 

Simon Garner was dubbed the Lincolnshire poacher during a 14-year Blackburn career that brought him 192 goals in 565 games. And the Boston-born striker was still finding the net on a regular basis when he eventually left Ewood Park in 1992, helping both West Brom and Wycombe to promotion via the play-offs.

Garner was educated at Boston Grammar School and played for local club Boston United. He joined Blackburn Rovers as an apprentice, turning professional in July 1978. His debut came the following season against Newcastle United in 1978 at St. James' Park, the first of 484 league games for Rovers, in which he scored 168 goals. 

In his final season at Ewood Park, he helped fulfill chairman Jack Walker`s dreams as Blackburn were promoted in time for the first Premier League season.

5: Ronnie Clayton

A Slave – To Soccer was the title the Blackburn Rovers and England player Ronnie Clayton gave his autobiography, published the year before the abolition of the iniquitous maximum wage in 1961, when it stood at £20 per week. Yet Clayton, who has died aged 76, was quite happy with his lot, venturing from his native Preston only as far as nearby Blackburn, where he made his League debut in 1951, and went on as a right-half to establish a club record of 665 appearances.

For England, he won no fewer than 35 caps, the first of them against Northern Ireland in 1955, the last against Yugo- slavia in 1960, and captaining the side on his last five appearances. As such, he was greatly admired by the England manager, Walter Winterbottom: "Ronnie was not a great talker, but he showed tremendous determination and concentration. And off the field, he was an honest, straightforward person; one you could rely on."

Jimmy Armfield of Blackpool, who played for England behind Clayton at right-back, admired him, too: "He always did his share of defensive duties and read a game so well. He was quiet. Now and again he would wander around and whisper a few things to you, but basically he showed rather than pointed the way."

4: Tugay

With Rovers gaining promotion back to the Premiership at the end of the 2000-2001 season Graeme Souness went in search of quality, experienced footballers. The likes of Brad Friedel arrived (having worked with Souness at Galatasaray) and Souness' ties with another former club in Rangers and the fact he had also worked with Tugay before enabled him to bring the Turk to England and he transferred to Ewood Park in the summer of 2001 for £1.3 million in June. Little did they know then just how much rovers would get for so little!

His consistency combined with his range of passing, which is at times breathtaking and his tough tackling; no holding back approach makes him the fans favourite he is. He also has an eye for goal, and wonder goals at that as many a goalkeeper knows to his cost!

3: Tim Sherwood

The highlights of his career include captaining Blackburn Rovers to the 1995 Premiership title and becoming a full international for England. He also won a runners-up medal in the 2002 League Cup Final with Tottenham Hotspur, coincidentally losing to his former team, Blackburn.

He made his debut for Watford against Sheffield Wednesday on September 12, 1987. 31 more league appearances followed in Division Two. He moved to Norwich City and notched up a total of 88 games and 13 goals in Norwich colours before joining Blackburn Rovers in February 1992.

As one of Kenny Dalglish's first signings for Blackburn, he initially struggled to make the first team but became an integral part of Dalglish's big spending Rovers side.

Under Tim's captaincy, Blackburn finished second in the Premiership in 1993/94 before winning it the following season. At this point it was a surprise that he did not gain international recognition, adding only an England B cap to the England Under 21 honours he picked up whilst at Norwich.

Sherwood, not the greatest midfielder the club has ever had, but in recent times possibly the most important. Sherwood's hands were the first Blackburn hands to hold the Premiership Trophy and may well be the last for the long and distant future. 

2: Colin Hendry

Hendry began his professional career with Dundee, where he remained as a relative unknown for four seasons. This all changed when in 1987, then Blackburn manager Don Mackay signed him for 30 000. Initially playing up forward, Hendry was gradually converted into a tenacious defender. Even so, he managed to score 22 goals in his first few seasons with Rovers and was well known for his up field charges with the ball. The most famous of his early goals was the winner in the 1987 Full Members` Cup, giving Rovers their first piece of silverware in 27 years.

Hendry became a constant in a period of great change for Rovers. Off field, Ewood Park was being rebuilt. Shearer won the footballer of the year award and attendances at games were climbing. On field, Rovers were a feared unit. With the 'SAS` (Shearer and Sutton) providing quality up front, Hendry`s` defensive heroics were not forgotten by the faithful. A rejuvenated Blackburn crowd cheered his second and third efforts on the ball and while his darting runs up field were becoming less with the wisdom of age, Hendry never lost his eye for goal.

It was in this scene of great change that Rovers qualified for the UEFA cup, finishing 2nd in `94. But even this great achievement paled in comparison to `95, where the Rovers were once again on top; winning the Premier League title by a single point. Hendry`s presence at the back was instrumental in this achievement and won him a place in the PFA Premiership team of the season. He was part of a defensive unit who were the rock on which the Premiership was won. Hendry`s work rate and courageous defending continued to endear him to the Blackburn public. By lifting the Premiership trophy as a defender, he had cemented the legend that had begun in `87 with his striking brilliance.

Blackburn’s greatest ever player: Alan Shearer 

His record says it all. Overall Appearances 171 - Overall Goals 130.  League Appearances 138 - League Goals 112. As Jack Walker began to pour millions into the football club and Rovers had been promoted to the Premier League, Kenny Dalglish went in search of a strike partner for Mike Newell. What he found was Alan Shearer a 22-year-old striker with one England cap to his name. And the rest they say is history. Shearer instantly became a fans favourite not only at local level but also at a national level. 16 goals in 21 games saw Rovers finish fourth in the Premiership in the 1992/93 campaign.

If Shearer hadn't damaged his cruciate knee ligaments in December 92 who knows what could have happened. Rover’s fans were anxious to see if Shearer would recover from such a major injury in the 1993/94 season. Alan once again shone 31 goals in 40 games including a memorable double against Manchester United at Ewood.

Then came Shearer's career-defining moment the Championship winning season. Shearer was phenomenal, scoring 34 goals, including memorable strikes against Queen's Park Rangers and Newcastle to clinch Rovers' first title in 81 years. Shearer also picked up the PFA Player of the Year award in 1995 (Still the only Rovers player ever to do so) The Season after Shearer managed a mere 31 goals in 35 games! However, this was to be Big Al's last campaign as a Rover as the lure of playing for his boyhood idol (Kevin Keegan) and for his hometown (Newcastle) became too great and he was subsequently sold for a then-record £15 million.

Shearer was a born finisher and leader on the pitch. Yet his game was not all about scoring goals, he chipped in with assists and was used regularly in defensive set pieces. 

He is 7otb and The Football Hours greatest Blackburn player.